with Spencer Greenberg
the podcast about ideas that matter

Episode 099: Volunteering to be infected with COVID — for science! (with Josh Morrison)

April 7, 2022

How can we develop vaccines more quickly? What kinds of study designs are used (or could be used) during vaccine development? In pandemic situations, we need to roll out vaccines quickly; but even if we can develop and test a vaccine quickly and thoroughly, how confident can we be that there won't be long-term risks? Between ethics and pragmatics, which facet should communicators emphasize when trying to convince organizations and institutions to adopt certain vaccine development strategies? Informed consent is, of course, a hugely important requirement for using human volunteers in challenge trials; so if some people are informed, eager, and willing to volunteer their health and safety for such trials in order to aid vaccine development, then why aren't they being used more (if at all)? Since IRBs are often "all brakes and no gas", could they be given powers to accelerate research in addition to their current powers to slow or halt research? How can bioethics reviews be improved?

Josh Morrison is a serial social entrepreneur and aspiring effective altruist who has founded 1Day Sooner, Waitlist Zero, and the Rikers Debate Project. His work — in the fields of clinical trials, living organ donation, and criminal justice reform — focuses on empowering particular identity groups (research participants, kidney donors, and incarcerated people) to improve decision-making processes so as to achieve impactful policy. His projects have been covered globally in outlets such as the New York Times, CNN, the Financial Times, the BBC, Der Spiegel, Asahi Shimbun, and the South China Morning Post. His writing has been published in the Washington Post, the American Journal of Bioethics, Clinical Infectious Disease, Vaccine, Risk Analysis, Vox, STAT News, and BMJ Opinion. You can email him at

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Host / Director
Spencer Greenberg

Josh Castle

Audio Engineer
Ryan Kessler

Uri Bram


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